The last perspective - John 13:18-30

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 14th October 2007.

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Well how would you feel if I were to announce that someone here at Riv has had their fingers in the till;  steeling money from the collection plate.    You’d be stunned wouldn’t you?   You’d feel betrayed and even violated.  And after you’d recovered from the shock, you’d be asking:  OK who is it?   And imagine how shocked you’d be if I said it wasn’t just a regular member of the congregation but a leader:  a member of the Steering Committee.  What if it were a member of the staff team? 

Well I’m not about to make a public confession and no-body has had their fingers in the till here at Riv church.    But that sense of shock and betrayal is exactly what we find in today’s passage. 

So if you’re not already there, pl turn back to Jn chapter 13 on p [1004/  1674] and look back with me at the last verse of last time’s passage:  v17:

17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Now you know what things?  Well as Don was explaining for us a fortnight ago, in the first half of chapter 13, Jesus has been giving His disciples a metaphor;  a giant picture of the cross.    Yes Jesus is going to the cross, but the benefits of Jesus dieing on the cross aren’t automatic.  What Jesus was saying in the foot washing was this:  unless you’re washed by Jesus, unless you come to Jesus and have your sins washed away, then the cross won’t benefit you.  But if you are one of J’s people;  if you’ve said yes to Jesus, then your sins are forgiven. 

And as my forgiven washed people, Jesus said in v12-17, live like this;  follow my example;  as a thankful response to all I’ve done for you, live lives of obedient service to God.  Or as v17 pits it:

17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

1.  Jesus knows everything [and is in complete control]   (v18-20/ 21)

And so when we get to v18, that’s what Jesus is talking about.  If you know these things, if you know the power of having your sins cleansed, then you’ll get on with living like this.  And as you do, you’ll be blessed.       But not all of you.  Because in v18 Jesus says:

18"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen.

One of you isn’t a true disciple as I’ve said all along.     Flip back with me if you would to 6:70:

70Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

And back chapter 13, look with me at v2:

 2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.

And onto v10:

10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

And so finally onto v18:

18"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'[b]

In J's day, even more than today, to have a meal with someone was a sign of intimate fellowship.   And the word for bread here it literally morsel;  a piece of food, not necessarily bread;  but a choice piece of food, possibly even a piece of meat, which in those days was a massive luxury. 

So this person who’s come round for tea and shared intimate family times with me;  this person is going to lift up his heal against me, which literally has the sense of being kicked backwards in the shines.   Not a momentary lapse under pressure;  no a considered settled rejection, as Jesus spells out in v21:

One of you, one of the 12 chosen disciples is going to betray me.     And the word betray is the same word Jesus uses in Mark when he predicts that  the Son of man is going to be betrayed or handed over to the chief priest and teachers of the law.  And they will condemn him to death and betray or hand him over to the gentiles, who will spit on him, flog him and crucify him.    And so the one who’s going to betray or hand Jesus over is directly responsible for J’s crucifixion.    Back in v19, he might as well have been the one who literally lifted Jesus up on the cross. 

Judas has deliberately chosen to reject Jesus.  But Jesus knows all about it.  He’s not taken by surprise.  Jesus knows what’s coming and he knows who’s going to do it. 

He’s isn’t like an employer who makes a mistake in taking on a new member of staff;  you know:  they did the interview properly and got all the references, but because we’re human and don’t know everything, sometimes we make mistakes don’t we?   J didn’t make a mistake in appointing Judas.  No, Jesus knew those he’d chosen to be His disciples.  Jesus knew everything about all 12 of them, including the fact that Judas would betray him.    

And Jesus knows everything about each and everyone one of us.   He knows what’s deep inside us.  Our very thoughts and motives.  And so he can tell whether we’re being genuine or not.  Because as Judas demonstrates, it possible to be part of the chosen few, it’s possible to be a member of a church, to be baptised and take communion and all that;  it’s possible to be a member of the visible church, to be a church-goer, and yet not be a real Christian.    We can’t always tell the difference.  But Jesus can, because he sees into our hearts and he knows everything.   And this challenges us to ask:  am I a Judas?  Because if you are, Jesus knows all about it. 

Why  - Because He’s Yahweh

But how?  How does Jesus have such power?  How does Jesus know everything?   Well look at v19 again:

19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.

Yes I know everything says Jesus.  But I’m telling you about this specific event in the future, so that when it happens, just as I said it would, you will believe me.  When things turn out exactly as I predict, you will know that I have supernatural knowledge.   And like the rest of the supernatural signs in the first half of John’s Gospel;  the signs point to who Jesus is.   As he puts it in v19: 

19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that [literally] I am He.

There is no He in the original.    The supernatural signs don’t just point to Jesus being the promised Messiah of the OT;  the Christ that is.  No, Jesus is making an explicit claim to be God himself.   

Because I am was the name that God revealed to Moses.  When the Israelites ask you who sent you, you are to say: I am sent me to you.  I am God along with God the father;  as He goes on to spell out at the end of v20:

20 …. whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."   The Father that is.  And the opposite is true, as Jesus makes explicit elsewhere in John’s Gospel:  he who rejects the God the Son, rejects God the Father.  You can’t have God as your Father, if you’re rejecting Jesus the Son.  You can’t worship the one true God, unless you’ve accept J;  unless you’re a Christian that is.   And so if, like Judas, you reject the Son, then you’ll be rejected by God the Father.  As Jesus puts it in Matthew’s Gospel:  what was in store for Judas as a punishment for rejecting Jesus, was so bad that it would have been better for him if he hadn’t have been born in the first place.  And of course, Jesus is referring to the eternal conscious punishment in hell;  far worse than unconscious nothingness like before we were born. 

So Jesus knows everything about us;  Jesus knows everything that’s going to happen:  why:  because he’s God;  God the son that is.  And because He’s God, he’s got complete and perfect knowledge.

But there’s more.    Look back again at v18:

“I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'[b]

It’s not just that Jesus predicts what’s going the happen.    Jesus knows what going to happen in the sense that he’s totally in control.    Because He’s God, he not only inspired the OT scriptures to predict what’s going to happen, he has the absolute power to ensure that those Scripture are actually fulfilled in history. 

As the Apostle Peter put it in his Pentecost sermon we read earlier, “J was handed over [same word again ‘betrayed’] to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.”    Jesus isn’t just simply predicting the future.  Jesus is directing the future, because He’s in complete control of the future.  All through the first half of John’s Gospel remember, Jesus was saying:  my hour has not yet come.  But in chapter 12 he announced:  the hour has come:  it’s time for the cross and everything that will lead to the cross.  Everything happens just as I say, and exactly when I say, say Jesus.    Even things like Judas betraying the Son of Man.


And that’s deeply comforting for God’s people.  God’s completely in control.  Even if we can’t work out what He’s doing or why, Jesus is God and He’s in control.  As we’ll see in a moment, the disciples, we completely stunned.  They had no suspicion whatsoever.  They couldn’t comprehend that one of the inner circle could possible betray Jesus and hand him over to be crucified.    But Jesus is saying:  trust me.  I didn’t make a mistake choosing Judas.  Thing haven’t gone pear-shaped.    I’ve not lost the plot.  Just trust me, even if you can’t see how this mess can possibly work out for good. 

And it’s the same message for us.  Sometimes things happen in our world, our nation, our church, our family, or our individual lives, that we just can't fathom.  Sometimes, we’re betrayed by those closest to us;  those who are part of the inner circle so to speak.  And the closer you are to someone, the more it hurts when they let you down.  Especially if you’ve worked together in the Lord, like the 12 disciples.  

Sadly even evangelical pastors sometimes betray Jesus and His people.  And I know people who are still scared by once such betrayal by a Baptist pastor called Roy Clements a few years ago. 

So we need to remember:  Jesus is in complete control.  And nothing shakes His eternal purposes.  Not even things we can’t fathom.  So even if your world seems like it’s falling apart, even if a church leader you know and love ever lost the plot, don’t despair,  Jesus is still in control.  Stay calm, don’t flap and trust in J’s power and control. 

Obeying God isn’t easy  (v21)

That’s the theory, but when things are tough, trusting and obeying God is difficult isn’t it.    And that’s the point in v21:  obeying God isn’t easy.   Look with me at v21:

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

J was God; he was in control;  but Jesus was fully man as well as fully god.  And so knowing what was going to happen made Jesus deeply troubled in spirit.  And that word troubled was the same word we saw back in 12:27.   A word which has the sense of revulsion, or horror, or anxiety or agitation.  

J was seriously stressed out.    And so he knows how we feel as human beings.  Just because Jesus was God and he knew what was going to happen, that didn’t make it easy. 

And so if obeying God the Father was stressful for Jesus, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we find it difficult and stressful.  Jesus said:  follow me:  where I go, you come afterwards.  The Christian life isn’t a walk in the woods;  the NT pictures it more like a session in the gym, or a day working on the farm.    And so there will be times when we sweet blood for Jesus.  And the point is:  it’s normal;  so don’t give up.  Don’t think you’re going mad.  Continue trusting in Jesus and ask for His sustaining help to get you through whatever you’re going through.  But the main thing is:  Jesus didn’t give up on you:  no he went to the cross for you despite the cost.  So don’t give up on him when the going gets tough.   

The disciples were stunned (v22-25)

But when things goes pear-shaped, we’re often stunned;  sometimes, we’re so emotionally and spiritually worn down by what’s going on that we’re physically num.  And that’s the sense of v22-25 where we see that the disciples were stunned.   They had absolutely no idea that they had a betrayer in their midst.  And even when they were told about it, they couldn’t even hazard a guess as to who it was.   

When they’d got over the initial shock, Peter and John want to find out who it was.  And that’s natural isn’t it.  But the main point for us is that no one else had a clue about Judas,  J’s knowledge about him really was supernatural.  He hadn’t heard it on the grapevine at the coffee machine and dressed it up as a prophecy.  No Jesus really did know something nobody else had a clue about.  Because Jesus was God;  the god who knows everything and who’s in control of everything. 


Jesus models love for His enemies v26-27

So how does the god-man Jesus treat Judas.    Well look at v26:

 26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.   "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him,

At one level Jesus is simply fulfilling the OT prophesy he’s already quoted back in v19.  He’s give a price of bread to the one who’s going to betray him.    But Judas is no passive robot in all of this.  He’s just been flushed out by Jesus.  None of the other disciples had a clue about Judas, but obviously Judas himself did.  And Jesus has basically said to him:  look me old Judas, I know what you’re about to do. 

And if you were in J’s shoes what would you do?    Well some of you might go and smack him in the mouth to put it crudely.  Others might be more subtle, but would still be harbouring resentment in their hearts.   But what would Jesus do?

Well he gives Judas a piece of bread;  a choice morsel, a piece of food that in that culture was reserved for a deeply honoured guest.  Indeed some commentators think that Judas was sitting on J’s left had side, which was the position of special honour.    And then in v27, Jesus gives Judas one last chance:  what you’re about to do, do quickly.  And the sense of quickly is:  even more quickly. 

It’s like in a film when a pair of lovers have had a tiff and one pulls a gun:  and the other one says:  come on then shoot me.  It’s a dare;  but the real point is this:  he’s saying:  it’s me;  are you really going to shoot me:  I love you.  You’re not really going to do this are you?  Stop while you still have the chance. 

Judas had a choice.  Should he put the gun down and seek J’s forgiveness;  or will he ignore the olive branch and pull the trigger anyway?    And in this we see Jesus modelling perfect love for His enemies.  He loves them so much that he confronts their sin and invites them to make the right choice:  surrender to Jesus, repent and be forgiven.    Judas’s finger is on the trigger, so what does he do? 

Well look at v30:

30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

He turned his back on Jesus and walked out.  He went off to the chief priests and teachers of the law to bring them back to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He pulled the trigger.  And it was night.    It’s not the weather forecast:  And it wasn’t 24 degrees.  No night or darkness in John's gospel are always in contrast to light;  the light of Jesus that is. Judas had the light, but he rejected the light in favour of darkness;  spiritual darkness;  eternal darkness. 

Yes Jesus knows everything and is in complete control.  Yes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy;  yes all that was part of God’s eternal plan.  And yet the Bible is absolutely clear that we’re still totally responsible for the decisions and choices we make.  Remember J’s words back in Matthew’s gospel:

24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

If we reject Jesus, then we’ll suffer eternal consequences for that choice.  We’re all sinners.  And so we all deserve to be eternally punished for those sins.  Eternal punished in hell that is.  But Jesus came to provide a way through that coming judgment.  And if we reject that rescue plan, then we still face God’s just punishment when we die.  Justly. 

The fact that God is in complete control doesn’t diminish our human responsibility.  Yes God chooses His disciples then and now.  But the Bible is also clear that we’re all accountable for the decisions and choices we make.  And if we reject Jesus, then like Judas, we’ll have to face the eternal consequences. 

Judas pulled the trigger.  He chose darkness.  But there’s still time for each of us.  As Jesus put it back in 12:35

Jn 12:35: You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light."

So if you know you’ve not said yes to Jesus properly, then the sensible thing is to submit to Jesus right now, before it’s too late.   But if you have said yes to Jesus, if you are already a true Christian, then the message to you this morning is don’t give up.  Don’t be thrown when people reject the Gospel;  don’t be thrown when church leaders loose the plot and start persecuting the church.    Remember that Jesus is in control, you’re living in the light, even if you can’t see everything clearly just yet;  and while you waiting for Jesus to return, follow His example;  love your enemies;  love those who persecute you and ridicule Jesus.    Love them enough to befriend them.  Love them enough to tell them about J;  about the Jesus who will one day return and judge the world.  Let’s pray.


Closing Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that you’re in control because you’re the Lord of all your creation.  Thank you for this last perspective, a last chance to choose light and life.  And help us all, we pray to choose life and to trust in for eternity, though the storms and darkness of life in this world, for your Glory and our eternal comfort we pray. Amen.

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